Falcon 9 Block 5


Falcon 9 Block 5
Falcon 9 Demo-2 Launching 6 (3).jpg
The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 launching Crew Dragon in Demo-2 mission from Kennedy Space Center on May 30, 2020. The rocket's distinguishing black thermal protection coating on the interstage is discernible.
FunctionPartially reusable orbital medium-lift launch vehicle
Country of originUnited States
Height70 m (230 ft) with payload fairing[1]
Diameter3.66 m (12.0 ft)[2]
Mass549,054 kg (1,210,457 lb)[2]
Payload to LEO (28.5°)
  • Expendable: 22,800 kg (50,300 lb)[3], 15,600 kg (34,400 lb) when landing
Payload to GTO (27°)
  • Expendable: 8,300 kg (18,300 lb)[3]
  • Reusable: 5,500 kg (12,100 lb)[3]
Payload to Mars
Mass4,020 kg (8,860 lb)[3]
Associated rockets
FamilyFalcon 9
Launch history
Total launches40
First flightMay 11, 2018
Notable payloads
First stage
Engines9 Merlin 1D+
Thrust7,607 kN (1,710,000 lbf)[4][5]
FuelSubcooled LOX / Chilled RP-1[6]
Second stage
Engines1 Merlin 1D Vacuum
Thrust934 kN (210,000 lbf)[2]
FuelLOX / RP-1

Falcon 9 Block 5 is a two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicle designed and manufactured domestically in the United States by SpaceX. It is the fifth version of Falcon 9 Full Thrust, powered by SpaceX Merlin engines burning liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants.

In 2017, Falcon 9 Block 5 succeeded the transitional Block 4 version. The main changes from Block 3 to Block 5 are higher thrust engines and improvements to the landing legs. Numerous other small changes helped streamline recovery and re-usability of first-stage boosters, increase production rate, and optimize re-usability. Each Block 5 booster is designed to fly ten times with only minor attention, and up to 100 times with refurbishment.[7]

The maiden flight launched the satellite Bangabandhu-1 on May 11, 2018. The CRS-15 mission on June 29, 2018 was the last Block 4 version of Falcon 9 to be launched. This was the transition to an all Block 5 fleet.[8][9]


The Block 5 design changes are principally[citation needed] driven by upgrades needed for NASA's Commercial Crew program and National Security Space Launch requirements. They include performance upgrades, manufacturing improvements, and "probably 100 or so changes" to increase the margin for demanding customers.[10]

In April 2017, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said that Block 5 will feature 7–8% more thrust by uprating the engines (from 176,000 pounds-force (780,000 N) to 190,000 pounds-force (850,000 N) per engine).[7] Block 5 includes an improved flight control system for an optimized angle of attack on the descent, lowering landing fuel requirements.

For reusability endurance:

  • expected to be able to be launched at least 10 times.[11][12]
  • up to 100 uses with refurbishment.[12][11][13]
  • a reusable heat shield protecting the engines and plumbing at the base of the rocket;
  • more temperature-resistant cast and machined titanium grid fins;[14]
  • a thermal protection coating on the first stage to limit reentry heating damage, including a black thermal protection layer on the landing legs, raceway, and interstage;
  • Redesigned and requalified more robust and longer life valves.
  • Redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessels (COPV 2.0) for helium, to avoid oxygen freezing inside the structure of the tanks that lead to rupture.

For rapid reusability:

  • reduced refurbishment between flights.[12]
  • a set of retractable landing legs for rapid recovery and shipping.[15]
  • the Octaweb structure is bolted together instead of welded, reducing manufacturing time.[16]

Human rating

NASA required seven flights without major design changes before the vehicle can be certified for human spaceflight for carrying NASA astronauts.[17][18] The initial Block 5 boosters did not have the redesigned composite overwrapped pressure vessel (COPV2) tanks.[17] The first booster with COPV2 tanks was booster B1047 on the Es'hail 2 mission on November 15, 2018, and the second booster using the COPV2 tanks was CRS-16/B1050, which had its first launch on December 5, 2018.[18]

The Block 5 design launched astronauts for the first time on May 30, 2020, on a NASA-contracted flight labelled Crew Dragon Demo-2.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "Falcon User's Guide" (PDF). January 14, 2019. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  2. ^ a b c "Falcon 9". SpaceX. November 16, 2012. Retrieved April 30, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "Capabilities & Services (2016)". SpaceX. November 28, 2012. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
  4. ^ SpaceX. "Bangabandhu Satellite-1 Mission". Retrieved February 2, 2019 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ SpaceX. "FALCON 9". SpaceX. Retrieved March 2, 2019.
  6. ^ Elon Musk [@elonmusk] (December 17, 2015). "-340 F in this case. Deep cryo increases density and amplifies rocket performance. First time anyone has gone this low for O2. [RP-1 chilled] from 70F to 20 F" (Tweet). Retrieved December 19, 2015 – via Twitter.
  7. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (April 4, 2017). "Musk previews busy year ahead for SpaceX". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  8. ^ Ralph, Eric (June 5, 2018). "SpaceX will transition all launches to Falcon 9 Block 5 rockets after next mission". TESLARATI.com. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  9. ^ Shanklin, Emily (June 29, 2018). "Dragon Resupply Mission (CRS-15)". SpaceX. Retrieved February 26, 2019.
  10. ^ NASA (February 17, 2017). "NASA Holds Pre-launch Briefing at Historic Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center". Youtube. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.
  11. ^ a b SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated). Robin Seemangal, Popular Mechanics. May 4, 2018.
  12. ^ a b c SpaceX is about to land a whole lot more rockets. Loren Grush, The Verge. July 22, 2018.
  13. ^ Elon Musk on Twitter: I don’t want be cavalier, but there isn’t an obvious limit. 100+ flights are possible. Some parts will need to be replaced or upgraded.
  14. ^ Musk, Elon (June 24, 2017). "Flying with larger & significantly upgraded hypersonic grid fins. Single piece cast & cut titanium. Can take reentry heat with no shielding". @elonmusk. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  15. ^ "SpaceX Test-Fires New Falcon 9 Block 5 Rocket Ahead of Maiden Flight (Updated)". Popular Mechanics. May 4, 2018.
  16. ^ "I am Andy Lambert, SpaceX's VP of Production. Ask me anything about production & manufacturing, and what it's like to be a part of our team!". reddit.com. April 24, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Clark, Stephen. "New helium tank for SpaceX crew launches still waiting to fly – Spaceflight Now". Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  18. ^ a b "SpaceX landing mishap won't affect upcoming launches". SpaceNews.com. December 5, 2018. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  19. ^ "NASA, Partners Update Commercial Crew Launch Dates – Commercial Crew Program". blogs.nasa.gov. Retrieved February 26, 2019. This article incorporates text from this source, which is in the public domain.

External links

  • Link to Falcon User's Guide, by SpaceX. Updated in January 2019 specifically for Block 5 upgrades.